OkCupid

Like many of my generation, I use OkCupid. No, I won’t tell you what my handle is. I’m not one of those people who thinks online dating is inherently “weird” or “creepy” (though it is a bit odd), as I’ve used it with moderate success over the past few years. A better descriptor might be “very, very different”. Every time I go on an OkCupid date, I’m struck by how much it resembles some sort of strange, two-way job interview:

Initial message (cover letter): demonstrate that you are familiar with the person (company), explain briefly why you’d be a good fit, point out a few shared interests, and hope you talk again.

Profile view (resume review): at this point, the person will either look at your profile, or at least your photo, and decide whether or not you’re worth answering. Much like a job you apply cold for, people don’t bother to reply unless they’re interested. The big difference is, OkC tells you when somebody views your profile. While getting no response to your resume is somewhat disappointing, knowing they looked at it before throwing it in the trash might be even worse.

Date (interview): So let’s assume your first few exchanges of messaging went OK. The other person is convinced you’re not a weirdo or a rapist/murderer, at least not yet. You meet some place very casual, almost always “for a drink” or “for coffee”. OkC first dates differ from other first dates because you normally go into a first date armed with very little knowledge. If you were set up via mutual friends, they might tell you a thing or two, but other than that, you’re usually flying somewhat blind. The upside of online dating is that when it gets to an actual date, each person knows what’s on the table: they are at least interested in the prospect of going out with this other person. In the 21st century, that can be a very difficult thing to figure out, at least for men (before you ask, no, I don’t ambush date, but I have known friends who did, and man, it’s not pretty). The double-edged sword is information: you go into the date with a dossier of information about your date, but also the knowledge that they know just as much about you as you do about them. Of course, things could end very quickly if they turn on the crazy too early, or if you were lying with your photographs (I never understood that one. Are people dating online so desperate that they would just suck it up and date somebody who looks nothing like their picture because they fear being alone so much?)

Other Dates/Sex/Both (You got the job!): If things go really well, you’ll either hook up (eventually), go on other dates, or in rare (in my experience) cases, you’ll get a new steady boyfriend/girlfriend. I suspected that many people use online dating as a means to find casual sex without seeming overly creepy or desperate about it, and this suspicion has been confirmed through my own experience and that of other friends, both male and female, gay and straight. I suppose sometimes you take on a shitty job until you land the gig of your dreams, right?

REVIEW: Milk & Honey

One phrase that has recently been added to the long lists of things I despise is “I’m over (insert something even fleetingly popular here)”. Never before has one collection of words so strikingly tapped in to so many different attitudes I found abhorrent. It’s not the assertion of a dissenting opinion, as anyone who reads this blog with any regularity can tell. What drives me up the wall is the sneering condescension, coupled with the implied fact that the person who is “over” the thing in question used to very much not be “over” it. As all hipper-than-thou wastes of oxygen can attest, once something has become even mildly entrenched within the zeitgeist, it begins to lose perceived “relevancy” (another terrible phrase) amongst a certain class of people.

ANYWAY, I open with this disclaimer because the following is a review of what some call a “speakeasy” style bar, and while this concept is still novel to the whole of the country, it’s been well-worn here in New York City, prompting many a self-appointed gatekeeper of coolness to announce that they are “over” speakeasies. That’s all well and good for trend-chasers, but those who are invested in the kind of atmosphere, service, and most importantly, quality that is rare enough in bars anywhere, let alone New York City, might want to take a second look.

I first became aware of Milk & Honey when my good friend Jacob Sloman recommended it to me on my first trip to New York City as an adult. He knew exactly how to hook me in, telling me that it was dark, quiet, and that they had an entire list of house rules on their website concerning the proper behavior of potential clients. Legend has it that none other than Quentin Tarantino was ejected from Milk & Honey, but this tale, sadly, remains unconfirmed.

Here’s how things work at Milk & Honey: you send an email message, indicating the desired time for your reservation and the number of people in your party. Generally speaking, it isn’t too difficult to get a reservation for a small group, but I’ve always made my inquiries weeks in advance. If one of your offered times is acceptable, someone will e-mail you back within a day to confirm, and then will send you a follow-up confirmation email on the day of the reservation, along with the location of the bar, if needed (in keeping with the speakeasy theme, Milk & Honey’s address is “secret”, but easily obtainable in the age of the Internet). When you arrive at the front door, an unmarked (save for the stenciled letters “M & H”) steel affair in the middle of a street that boasts mostly Laundromats and noodle shops, a buzz will get you inside, where a hostess will ask for the name your reservation is under (being somewhat new to the speakeasy myself, I have to admit to a certain petty glee aroused by watching the uninformed trudge into the bar in cargo shorts and flip-flops, only to be turned away once they admitted they had no reservations).

Once seated, or even before, the hostess will fire off a brief series of questions designed to equip the bartender with enough knowledge to make you the perfect cocktail. You can also opt for a classic cocktail of your choice, but odds are the mixologists here understand what you want as well or perhaps even better than you do. I’ve never been one for sweet drinks, but at the bartender’s urging, I tried a cocktail that had a rich, chocolaty taste combine with the robust flavor of scotch and other ingredients my palate isn’t well-trained enough to pick out. My friend Kate Brown who accompanied me claims to have discovered her favorite cocktail here, a concoction called a Penicillin that neither of us had heard of before. While sitting at one of the small booths is the most intimate and cozy option in the bar, sacrificing the comfort for a bar stool means that you have a front-and-center view of the entire process, and a brief education about each drink and ingredient from the person making them. Fascinating stuff, if you’re in the mood.

The atmosphere at Milk & Honey is dignified and restrained. Supposedly the place used to be lit entirely by candles, and while that’s no longer true (if it ever was), the bar is indeed very dark, both in terms of lighting and the various materials used to construct the beautiful bar, tables and booths. There’s something decidedly old world about a place so often derided as trendy or pretentious. The shadowy light level, combined with the tight but comfortable seating and the lounge music pumped in at low volume makes for an incredibly relaxed and, if need be, romantic setting. The bartender, if you elect to sit at the bar, is incredibly personable and attentive, and the waitresses and hostesses are charming and gracious to a degree that is almost absurd in this day and age. All of these elements are achieved through design, by owner/operator Sasha Petraske.

A quick visit to the bar’s official website reveals a list of house rules, which read as follows:

  1.  No name-dropping, no star fucking
  2.  No hooting, hollering, shouting or other loud behavior.
  3.  No fighting, play fighting, no talking about fighting.
  4.  Gentlemen will remove their hats. Hooks are provided.
  5.  Gentlemen will not introduce themselves to ladies. Ladies, feel free to start a conversation or ask the bartender to introduce you. If a man you don’t know speaks to you, please lift your chin slightly and ignore him.
  6.  Do not linger outside the front door.
  7.  Do not bring anyone unless you would leave that person alone in your home. You are responsible for the behavior of your guests.
  8.  Exit the bar briskly and silently. People are trying to sleep across the street. Please make all your travel plans and say all farewells before leaving the bar.

I was once engaged in an ongoing argument with my very close friend Jeff DeSouza: I have a soft spot for bars like Milk & Honey and The Cedar Social (Dallas), places in which a certain manner of dress and decorum is expected, if not explicitly enforced. Jeff frequently characterized such rules or encouragement as pretentious and image-focused, and perhaps in some instances they are, but we finally saw eye to eye on the issue (while drunk inside of a Whataburger, ironically enough) when my brother Alex put it into better words than I could. In a place like Milk & Honey, the rules, the dress, the expectations, are a matter of respect. As Alex put it, a person like Petraske, who puts the utmost care and consideration into crafting the perfect experience for a certain type of drinker—from the meticulous production and presentation of the cocktails to the impeccable service—deserves to have that consideration returned to him in the form something as insignificant as dressing like a grownup. The hassles of making a reservation days in advance, of dressing in something approaching your best, of paying $16.00 for a cocktail are a fair tradeoff for the joy of enjoying an incredible drink, mixed by an incredibly talented and gracious bartender while you enjoy the company of a close friend in a small, quiet corner of the city that never sleeps.

Thoughts from the Subway (because everybody loves lists!)

Since I, as a lone writer, cannot stop the inevitable move away from long and thoughtful commentary, I am capitulating (at least temporarily) and presenting, consolidated in one forum for your reading pleasure:

A COLLECTION OF RANDOM THOUGHTS I HAVE WHILE RIDING THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY:

1. “What’s the deal with black guys never tying their sneakers?”

2. “Why do foreign people always ask me, and only me, for directions?”

3. “Did I just see a couple pour Arizona iced tea into their infant’s sippy cup?”

4. “I just came from the gym, and I’m not sure if I’m the one that smells, or if anybody can tell the difference.”

5. “This still beats L.A./Austin/Dallas/Boston/Anywhere traffic. Hands down.”

6. “At what point am I obligated to try and stall imminent violence?”

7. “Gay guys get really, really graphic when they drink.”

8. “Giant hoochie mamas and waifish hipster girls: mortal enemies within the MTA ecosystem.” (David Attenborough voice)

9. “I don’t want to treat him like a leper, but I really don’t like looking at the burn victim asking for money.”

10. “Stop leering at the map directly over my head. Jesus, don’t you have a smart phone? Oh god, help, I’m an asshole.”

 

–J

And Now For Something Somewhat Different

Things have been a bit dense around here, so I thought I would lighten the mood a little bit by presenting everyone with a run-down of things that I hate. Since I am a navel-gazing misanthrope, this might be infuriating, hilarious, or (hopefully) both. A lot of these are NYC-based, since I just moved here. Enjoy!

1. People who unnecessarily add the word “food” when describing a restaurant

As in “Oh, you need to come with me to Manhattan sometime. There’s this awesome Chinese food restaurant that you have to try!” Really? That’s a load off my mind. Here I was wondering if they served food at this particular restaurant you were referring to, thanks for clearing that up.

2. People who stand in the middle of the stairs to the train

Even when it’s not busy and the train’s not coming, this makes me want to kick people into the third rail. Same goes for people who stop in the MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK to check their phones or try and figure out where they’re going. This goes double for folks who stop to check their phone every 2 steps when they’re at say, 7th and 23rd. Manhattan is a grid. The street numbers get bigger as you go West and North.

3. Well done meat

Just…what a horrible, horrible thing to do to an innocent, dead piece of cow. I can’t tell you how happy I was when I read Kitchen Confidential and found out that people who order meat well done get the cheapest, oldest, crappiest scraps in the kitchen. Good, more quality blood-soaked goodness for the rest of us.

4. People who use paper towels/napkins to blot the grease off of pizza

No matter how many arguments I hear from these weirdos–it cuts this many calories, it decreases this much chance of heart disease, it makes your farts smell like sunshine–the fact remains: if you’re trying to watch what you eat, you shouldn’t be shoving a pound of dough, cheese, and meat in your face. Not only is complaining of greasy pizza like complaining of  wet water, blotting the grease off your pizza is like ordering three big macs and then bitterly complaining when they don’t have diet coke.

5. Women who make the “shh shh” motion by shoving their fingers in your face

I don’t want to discriminate, but men never do this because they know they’d pull back a stump. I’m not five, and there are more tactful ways to let people know that you’re a self-centered cunt, like politely waiting your turn to speak before blathering on about whatever E! reality show distracted you from your empty life that week.

6. People who take shots of really good alcohol

I’ll begrudgingly accept folks who shoot nice tequila, because bad tequila tastes like the Inquisition, and the stuff is kind of made to be thrown back, but everyone shooting Jameson, or worse yet, scotch, needs to either man the hell up and sip like a gentleman or not drink the brown stuff. The reason you buy nice liquor is to taste it and enjoy it, not so you can throw it back and holler like an idiot, or worse yet, piss coca-cola or ginger ale into it. That’s what T.W. Samuels is for (note: they dont’ have T.W. Samuels in New York. The well whiskey in Manhattan seems to be Evan Williams, and Brooklyn usually goes for Old Crow).

7. People who spell “ridiculous” with an “e”

You look ridiculous.

8. People who are way too obsessed with cats

I used to be fine with cats. I’m a dog person, but I co-existed peacefully with felines until that damn LOLcats meme took over and began my generation’s long and sputtering descent into mediocrity as dictated by the Internet. I realize it’s not the cats’ fault, but much like Eddie Vedder is indirectly to blame for the legions of piss-poor imitators that followed Pearl Jam (pretty much every “heavy” band that got radio play between 1993 and 1999), so are cats complicit in the crimes carried out against humanity in their name. I’ll even sometimes run into people (ok, let’s be honest: girls) who purr when they see their friends or actually say the word “meow!” to communicate excitement. Sorry cats, we gave it our best shot, but I think it’s best if we see other people.

9. People who bother the waiter

I identify with the Soup Nazi. Everything he’s so adamantly opposed to, I understand. The not figuring out what you want while you’ve stood in line for ten whole fucking minutes, the chit-chat with somebody who is not your friend and has no desire to be, the needless nit-picking and custom ordering and instructions that are sure to be ignored…I hate all of it, especially folks who are so unable to make a decision for themselves they bully some college student earning less than minimum wage into becoming their own personal food critic. Once, I was out with a friend who did this, and I was getting ready to crawl under the table the very obviously stressed-out and not-in-a-good-mood server pointed to something on the menu, said “you’re having that”, jotted it down, and walked away.

10. People who complain about everything

I also hate myself. See what I did there?

 

Cheers,

–J